As the race for chairmanship and other elected leadership posts in the Democratic National Committee heats up, candidates have begun putting out their platforms. Here are the ones that are out so far (Note that candidates with an asterisk next to their name are incumbents running for re-election):
DNC Chair Candidates
Sally Boynton Brown
Robert Vinson Brannum
DNC Vice Chair Candidates
Maria Elena Durazo *
Grace Meng *
DNC Vice Chair of Civic Engagement and Voter Participation Candidates
Karen Carter Peterson
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake *
National Finance Chair Candidates
Henry Muñoz III *
Withdrawn/Did Not Run
Xavier Becerra (Opted not to run. Nominated Attorney General of California December 1.)
Howard Dean (Declared November 10. Dropped out December 2.)
Ilyse Hogue (Opted not to run December 21.)
Steve Israel (Opted not to run)
Martin O’Malley (Opted not to run)
Vincent Tolliver (Declared for Houston DNC Forum January 28, expelled from the race January 31.)
As more candidates get in the race and publish their platforms, they will be added to this list.
Governor Howard Dean (D-Vt.) released this video for the Association of State Democratic Chairs meeting happening in Denver this weekend.
In addition to announcing his withdrawal from the race, he did not endorse another candidate and encouraged that whoever gets elected to the post take the job as a full-time position – a seeming reference to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) who is a sitting member of Congress. Based on the number of endorsements he has accumulated, Ellison remains the front-runner in the race, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point. The winner has to receive the votes of at least 224 out of the 447 voting members of the Democratic National Committee.
Dean’s withdrawal leaves three confirmed candidates in the race (Ellison, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley, and South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison) which creates some interesting dynamics.
- Two of the candidates (Ellison and Harrison) are African American. The other (Buckley) is white and openly gay. All three represent constituencies in the Democratic coalition.
- Two of the candidates (Buckley and Harrison) represent the second and third states in the existing order of the presidential primaries. In both their cases it would raise legitimate questions about whether or not they would be willing to reform or significantly alter the primary calendar and nominating process, lest their home state lose power and influence over the process.
- Two of the candidates (Buckley and Ellison) are over the age of 50. Harrison is in his early 40s. This could create a generational divide in terms of outlook for the party’s future, priorities, values, etc. Harrison has said that if he is elected chairman, he will create a Vice Chair position to be filled by someone under the age of 35. Given that Hillary Clinton underperformed with millennials in the recent election, Harrison’s youth could be an asset.
- Each of them come from states with different political leanings. Ellison represents an urban district in a solidly blue state (Minnesota). Buckley leads the party in a swing state with a track record of voting for both parties in federal, state, and local races (New Hampshire). Harrison leads the party in a solidly red state where Democrats have not been very successful in recent years (South Carolina).
- Two of the candidates (Buckley and Ellison) come from states with predominantly white populations. Only Harrison comes from a state with a significant minority population – African Americans account for nearly 28 percent of South Carolina’s population according to the most recent census data. Ellison comes from and represents the Upper Midwest – the region of the country that determined the election. This could be an asset for him in making his argument.
- All three candidates come from small states population-wise, according to the most recent census data. (Minnesota – 5.5 million, 10 electoral votes; South Carolina – 4.9 million, 9 electoral votes; New Hampshire – 1.3 million, 4 electoral votes)
- Two of the candidates (Buckley and Harrison) are sitting state party chairmen. If either of them were elected, he would be a full-time DNC chairman. Of those two, Buckley and his state party produced the best results in the recent election, delivering New Hampshire for the presidential and Senate races. Ellison said he might be open to leaving his congressional seat to do the DNC chairman job full-time. The fact that Buckley and Harrison have had to run their state parties and have lived and operated outside of Washington D.C. could be an asset in making their case for why they can best lead and reform the party, as opposed to a sitting member of Congress who has lived and worked in the capital for years. The party’s recent experience with Debbie Wasserman Schultz could also make it averse to choosing another member of Congress as DNC chairman.
There is still the possibility of other candidates jumping in the race, particularly Ilyse Hogue (president of NARAL Pro-Choice America) and Stephanie Schriock (president of Emily’s List).
Several news and political organizations have been reviewing and publicizing Rep. Keith Ellison’s writings about Zionism, Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan, and slavery reparations from more than two decades ago. CNN did an in-depth review which you can read here. They became an issue during his first congressional run ten years ago. He has since disavowed his involvement with the Nation of Islam and has been defended by Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and J Street. His past writings and views are drawing renewed scrutiny since Ellison announced his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.
Ellison wrote this blog post on Medium explaining his background and the context for some of the issues at the time that are now being raised against him. It’s a start, but clearly he will have to address these issues from his past publicly and privately to convince DNC members to elect him as chairman.
UPDATE: Bad news for Ellison. The Anti-Defamation League has released a statement retracting its previous defense of Ellison, citing a recording of a 2010 speech – after he had been elected to Congress – which they describe as “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.” Here’s the relevant excerpt:
New information recently has come to light that raises serious concerns about whether Rep. Ellison faithfully could represent the Democratic Party’s traditional support for a strong and secure Israel. In a speech recorded in 2010 to a group of supporters, Rep. Ellison is heard suggesting that American foreign policy in the Middle East is driven by Israel, saying: “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes.”
Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying. His words imply that U.S. foreign policy is based on religiously or national origin-based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests. Additionally, whether intentional or not, his words raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government, a poisonous myth that may persist in parts of the world where intolerance thrives, but that has no place in open societies like the U.S. These comments sharply contrast with the Democratic National Committee platform position, which states: “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.”
Read the statement in its full context here.
UPDATE II: Here’s Ellison’s response to the ADL statement.
Several Democrats – including a DNC chair candidate, an Obama cabinet secretary, and a potential 2020 presidential candidate – penned a collection of mini op-eds for the Washington Post outlining their vision for the party and its future. All of them are worth reading.